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Alex Bowman Wins Pole; Denny Hamlin to Start Second in Daytona 500

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For the second straight season, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will sit on the front row for the season-opening Daytona 500.

But this time, young driver Alex Bowman is piloting the car.

Circling 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway at a speed of 195.644 mph, Bowman notched his second career pole — first at Daytona — in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series during Sunday’s qualifying session. This marks his first season driving the No. 88 full time in the Monster Energy Series, following Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement last season.

“I think it’s still a little surreal,” Bowman said. “It’s a dream come true to get to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. I never thought it would have happened after the path my career took. I’m so thankful to be able to do this. I’m very blessed to be able to call driving a race car my job, and now to get to drive what I think is the best race car in the business.”

Denny Hamlin will line up alongside Bowman after notching a speed of 195.092 mph in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to nab the second starting spot for the “Great American Race.” Hamlin is the 2016 Daytona 500 winner, but has never started on the front row for the sport’s biggest race.

Bowman and Hamlin also were fastest in the opening round of qualifying.

Sunday’s two-round, single-car qualifying session only produced the front row for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The rest of the field will be determined by Thursday’s Can-Am Duels (7 p.m., FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The lineup for the Duels will be set based on Sunday’s qualifying speeds.

Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and William Byron all showed speed during qualifying, posting the third, fourth and fifth-fastest speeds (respectively) in Sunday’s session. But their Daytona 500 grid positions, along with the rest of the field aside from the front row, will be set based on the Duels.

The Monster Energy Series is back on track at Daytona shortly with this afternoon’s Advance Auto Parts Clash (3 p.m. ET, FS1), which Austin Dillon will lead to green.